Fallout from Deion Sanders' arrival in the 49ers locker room hit on all compass points of emotion after he was named the starting right cornerback, at the expense of free safety Dana Hall.
Sanders himself was thrilled.Hall was shocked and angry.
Left cornerback Eric Davis was relieved.
Merton Hanks, moving from right corner to free safety, was oddly without comment. Strong safety Tim McDonald had a warm, fuzzy feeling all over. As the best coverage cornerback in the league, Sanders will provide sound man-to-man pass coverage while allowing his new teammates, McDonald in particular, the freedom to do other things, such as blitz.
"That's a key to a lot of situations on defense," McDonald said. "You've got a guy that can take away a receiver and you can focus on the inside guys. You can make a lot of things happen. I think it will be good for our defense."
For Sunday's game at Candlestick Park against the New Orleans Saints and beyond, Sanders will flop with Davis and play on both sides of the field, according to the defensive call and the offensive formation. Since Michael Haynes is the Saints' fastest receiver, Sanders will probably match him speed for speed on Sunday. Haynes has 13 receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown this season.
"I think these guys are ready to move and get loose, ready to play this type of (attacking) game," Sanders said of his new teammates.
"They can't wait, especially a guy like Tim McDonald (for whom) this defense really fits perfect. I can't wait to see him coming to his old, old (style of play) instead of worrying about having to cover a half (of the field) and have so many responsibilities."
Defensive backs coach Tom Holmoe said the 49ers essentially have three cornerbacks in the secondary with Sanders, Davis and Hanks, the swingman in the rotation. That should equate to better pass coverage, which would allow McDonald the ability to play closer to the line of scrimmage as he did with impact in Phoenix.
In 30 plays against the Rams, Sanders did not allow a catch and broke up two passes. Although Hanks supplanted Hall and started 11 games at free safety last season, he had little to say about moving back to the position. He appeared ill at ease with the developments.
"I'm speechless," he said. "I'll talk about it (later)."
Hall had plenty to say about the biggest setback of his three-year career. It's not as if he's being banished, however. Hall will start in the nickel defense and also play on the goal line and short-yardage alignments.
"Let alone being shocked about it, I'm definitely upset about it," Hall said. "I don't agree with the decision. I'm unhappy about it.
"I never envisioned being taken out of the lineup for improving. As long as I do what I'm supposed to do, there's no way I'd relinquish my starting position. That's why I say I'm shocked."
Hall said he was informed of the switch by Holmoe and defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. Hall said coach George Seifert did not speak to him about the move.
"I think Dana's played well this year," Seifert said. "I've given it a lot of thought. If we find we are wrong, we'll change. We think a lot of Dana. Does it bother me personally? Of course it does. Ultimately, it's my responsibility."
Hall has improved in his third year, but he's not dynamic like Sanders or instinctive like Hanks. Hall has one pass defensed this season. Davis has five. Sanders had two in his first game.
"To this point, I felt I improved each week," Hall said. "I busted my a-- on the field; that's what I had to do. That's what I had to show them.
"I can't understand. I don't like it. I can't put myself in the coaches' position because I'm a player. I have feelings."
Davis had feelings of relief. Earlier in the week, it appeared he might take a seat while Sanders took his left corner spot.
"It's nice to still be on the field," he said. "Relief, surprise, all that. I feel like I can do the job. The relief is all this being over. We can go about our jobs now."
Davis' job may change now that Sanders is at the other corner. Teams will probably be inclined to throw away from Sanders and directly at Davis. "I always figure I'm the guy they're going to throw to," he said. "Always have, always will."